We all know that we are supposed to stretch after exercising or spending the day working on the computer, but how important is it? Can we get away with skimping on stretching or should we be making it a necessity? Stretching is often overlooked, but it is a crucial part of recreational exercising, sport activities and even everyday life.
Stretching is performed to maintain joint motion, muscle integrity and to help prevent injury. The available range of motion (ROM) in the joints of your body directly determines how effectively your body moves. Therefore, any joint restriction, such as tight muscles, will negatively impact your mobility. Muscle tightness is due to increased tension within the tissue and can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, stress, scarring and/or muscle spasms. Stretching can help reduce muscle tightness and promote safe and effective movement patterns.
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How long do I stretch?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends stretching at least 2-3 times a week. The stretch should result in the a feeling of tightness or slight discomfort that goes away once the stretch is stopped. Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds. Stretches should be repeated 2-4 times for a total of 60 seconds per stretch.
When should I stretch?
The ACSM explains the best time to stretch is the muscle is warm. They suggest stretching after a light, aerobic warm-up or after a hot bath/hot pack.
How should I stretch?
Let’s dive into the different types of flexibility exercises:
- Static stretching- this what most of us refer to as ‘stretching’. You slowly stretch your muscle to end range and stay there. Static stretching is beneficial if performed prior to activities that require increased joint range of motion, such as a dancing.
- Active static stretching- you hold your body in the stretch by by contraction of opposing muscle(s)
- Passive static stretching- you don’t contract any muscle(s) to get into the stretch. This is done by using a stretching aid, such as a Stretch-out Strap or partner.
- Dynamic stretching- this is a moving stretch. You stretch by progressively increase the range of motion through repeated movements. Some examples of dynamic stretches include: high knees, arm circles and leg kicks. Dynamic stretching should be implemented prior to activities that require jumping and running, such as basketball or soccer.
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Stretching can provide multiple benefits to people of any age or activity level. Select the type of stretching that works for you, safely implement it into your daily routine and stick with it!
If you want to find out more about creating a fitness plan you can read our blog or give us a call today! Direct Access in NJ allows you to get in for an evaluation without you having to see your Doctor, probably quicker than you could even get that appointment, while also saving you both time and money!
Please, call us to schedule you evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations in Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700) with one of our highly-trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!
Clinical Commentary Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation.
American College of Sports Medicine. 2011. ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise.
Kay, A and Blazevich, A. 2012. Effect of Acute Static Stretching on Muscle Performance: A Systematic Review.
Folster, A. 2014. Why Stretching is Extremely Important. SHCS Blog.
NHS choices. 2015. Do I need to stretch before exercising?